Sunday, March 28, 2021

An Old-Style Update

When I used to blog a lot more, once a week I would link up with other bloggers in a weekly, 7 Quick Takes.  They could be anything from little updates to new finds, or just silly kid quotes.  It may still be in existence.  I'm not sure, but it is here today!

1.  Agnes

She has a new smile.  A nose-scrunching, eye-squinting smile.  And, I LOVE it.  She is doing so, so well.  We had a well-check at the beginning of this week, and after a long physical examination, her pediatrician said the following things: her legs are the same size and length (which they weren't at first), she is bearing weight on both, there is no evidence of calf thinning, and she has better bladder control (she didn't in the first few months).  All of these things are music to our ears and such huge blessings.  

She is such a happy baby, and she loves her family.  She might be a little spoiled, haha.  But, we expected that.  We are still working on helping her learn to sit up and praying she builds the strength to do so on her own soon.  She has a big trip to Houston soon to have a follow-up with her neurosurgeon as well as to establish a vascular anomalies care team there.  We are moving her medical care to Houston simply since I'll be there off and on more than I'm in Denver for the foreseeable future.

2.  Me

Lots has happened in the cancer realm recently.  I finished my last rounds of AC chemo during Lent.  The last round was supposed to be the worst, but thank God, for me it wasn't.  I still have a few lingering side effects (painful and purple nail beds, a few mouth sores, fatigue from time to time, etc).  But, things are getting better!

I have oncologists in Houston and Amarillo and they disagreed on my treatment plan.  There were also some miscommunications or lack of communication.  So, one thought I needed to go straight to surgery after the last round of AC.  The other felt I needed more chemo before surgery.  Lots of back and forth with me being the go-between led to a new oncologist (who I'll meet with after surgery) and a moved-up surgery date.

I will have surgery April 13th which will include a bilateral mastectomy, an axillary node dissection (taking all of the lymph nodes under my arm) on the right, and a sentinel node dissection (taking just a few of the lymph nodes under my arm) on the left.  Because of the risk of lymphedema after node removal, I won't be able to fly for a few weeks, so I'll be in Houston a bit, recovering and waiting on my follow-up appointment.

I know God will take care of it all, yet sometimes I worry about surgery...maybe more so about the after effects than the actual surgery...the lifting restrictions afterwards, the possible need for more chemo, the risk of lymphedema, the risk of cording/webbing, being away from my kiddos, and building a new "normal" again.  But, it has to be done, and there again, I know it's in much bigger hands than mine, thank goodness.

3.  John Paul

I mentioned on Instagram for a brief second that John Paul has been struggling with vomiting.  We are in the process of trying to figure all of that out.  It started about a year ago and has just gotten worse.  The periods between sessions has gone from months to weeks.  I know he is so very anxious about Agnes and me.  But, we also think he must have some food sensitivities and possibly an esophageal condition.  So, we are keeping a detailed food journal, adding some daily meds for a bit and waiting on follow-up bloodwork.  Plus we've found a wonderful person he can visit with weekly that has been such a huge blessing.

4.  Others

I feel like the other kids are doing as well as can be expected.  They all handle things so differently and I need to be better at drawing things out of them.  For now, we are all being as open as possible and praying for the grace to get through each day...and I'm praying that God will show me how to best help each and every one in their own way. 

5.  Ranch Life

We are entering a very busy season on the ranch.  Cows are having calves, and branding will soon begin.  This week we were able to save a calf that its momma couldn't quite deliver on her own.  All of the kids got to help/watch, and while watching a birth isn't for everyone, I've got a video if anyone does want to see it.  It's a beautiful way to see just how God meticulously created everything for a purpose, and it's also rewarding to be able to help our animals when they need just a bit of assistance.  

6.  Bell Road Beef

All is well with the operation thanks so much to those who have stepped in to help since this fall.  Our shipping days are a huge extended family affair.  We are processing more beef than ever.  Our customers are as wonderful as they come, and we just got in a new product that I'm very much a fan off, especially with no hair, hehe.

7.  New "Normal"

Since January and the addition of our lovely nanny, Grace, we've made some life changes.  Each of which in the long run will be wonderful things even though in the short time, it's been a bit of an adjustment, ha!  

We've transitioned to a much more whole-foods diet.  I thought we ate fairly healthy before, but I think I was kidding myself.  So far, it's been good, and the kids have taken to it much easier than I expected.  We have a lot of smoothies these days for breakfast, more fish in our diet, lots of veggies and fewer inflammatory foods.

I, however, didn't realize how much I attached food to comfort, memories, experiences, etc.  And, it's been somewhat of a death to all of that - needless to say, I've had my moments of resistance...or should I say meltdowns?!  Ha!

I've been told I need to exercise more and reduce stress.  If I'm honest with myself, I've always put an extreme amount of pressure on myself.  It's all internal and a drive to just be my best, although there were numerous times my teachers would tell me I needed to tone it done before I killed myself, and sometimes I wonder how much that inability to "let go" played into this cancer.  I'll never know but I do know I am slowly learning to do that more.  Slowly.  

You would think that a cancer diagnosis would make me a much better, more patient mom.  I think because of all the things swirling around in my mind, I haven't quite gotten there yet.  In fact, I've been moodier than I want to be.  But, I'm trying hard to create a more peaceful home, environment, etc.  And, like I said, they said exercising will be key to helping prevent reoccurrence, so I have to make that part of my routine, too.  That will only help us, I know.

I think I need to adopt the whole "less is more" mentality.  Pray for me ;)

In all areas we are trying to go "cleaner" so I even became a BeautyCounter consultant.  I know, I know.  Never say never.

And, above all, instead of trying to "fix" it all myself and then go to God, our new normal is a place of surrender...a place of what it should have been all along, because to think that I can fix anything alone is such a falsehood.  It's always Him.  And, I can get in His way, or I can move one foot in front of the other only after giving Him the reins.  And, gosh, it's so much better that way.

8.  Bonus

A fun vest I've bought to stay warm.  Gosh I need my hair back, haha.

A dress option for Easter (I think I'll take the opening together a bit).

New jeans I LOVE!

A great, sweet little snack.

Such a good read.  This one, too

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Dark Before Dawn

I sit here in Houston on a cloudy day awaiting scans and news as to whether or not the chemo is working.  And if it isn't, or if I'll need more, I know God will provide me the strength to get through those rounds, but gosh, I don't want more.

Looking back now to December 7th (the start of chemo) yes, it's gone by quickly.  But, the days and weeks have sometimes seemed to drag.  I want to remember (or maybe I really don't) how it felt to go through it.  Maybe for the purpose of reminding myself in the future when life seems tough I can do tough things.  Or maybe it's more for someone meet them where they are in their journey and let them know that they, too, can get through.

For whatever reason, I write.


On Mondays, early in the mornings, my mom picks me up at my house, and we drive the two hours to the cancer center for treatment.  I know those days will be good days, and I know for the most part that the day after will, too.  But, sometimes I cannot quiet my mind as I see the drugs, especially the red one, push through my veins, knowing that "bad" days are coming - usually two days later.  And, the bad days are weird.  I think I expected them to be physically tough.  I expected the nausea.  I expected the bone pain, although I had no idea what it felt like before I experienced it.  I even expected the fatigue, mouth sores, infected nails, acne, hair loss, lack of appetite, diarrhea and raw esophagus.  What I couldn't wrap my head around before, and still have a hard time doing so, is the mental game.

And, it's difficult to fully describe.  It's a teetering between an out-of-body experience and one in which you're trapped in that very body.  But the body doesn't really work.  I sit there, thinking I should be doing something, but I don't have the mental capacity to do so.  And, one would think in that mental state, it would be so easy to just binge watch a new show, or learn to knit, or maybe do some mind games.  Wrong.  It is as if every fiber of your being is solely focused in getting through the day.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

I pull out my phone to text, and my eyes blur as I try to type the words.  I reach for the remote to watch a movie, and it doesn't even seem worth the effort.  I watch as someone else meets the needs of my children, or how I half-heartedly change a diaper, and try to hold one little one as the noises around me get louder and louder while I feel like I'm digging deeper and deeper into a tunnel.  If I sleep, I won't sleep at night, yet I don't sleep well at night anyway because of the steroids.  So, what do I do?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Or I try, and I get frustrated with my lack of effort.

Then I'm upset...frustrated that I cannot even do the job I'm called to do.  Humiliated that it has taken me this long to learn to give up that sense of control, but still clinging to the idea that it should be me who has enough energy to cook the meals, school and care for the children, clean the home and keep our rule of life, per se.  But, at this time, it isn't  And, sometimes it's more frustrating to try than to simply retreat to a quiet room and be okay just staring at a wall (that desperately needs to be cleaned).

And mind goes.  The questions start to flood in and the bridled fears I typically detach from slowly start creeping up into my throat, and the tears begin to flow.  Will I ever feel "normal" again?  Will I be able to think like I used to?  Will I come from a sense of joy rather than what feels very mundane.  Will I ever hear that the cancer is gone?  Will I remember what life was like before October 21st?  Will food taste good again, and will eating be enjoyable?  What else will change before this is all over? Will this end?

While I know it will, I also know that once a body produces cancer, there is no guarantee it won't produce it again.  There is not a cure.  Every scan, and every little illness for awhile I'm sure will chill to the bone, as I wait for answers.  Yes, I have hope.  Yes, I understand that God knows all of this and has the most perfect plan.  I've never been in a place of despair, but I do think the bad chemo days are close.  And, I hate feeling that way.

Because I know a God who cares about my five-year-old's birthday pinata.  The same God who performed miracles for my sweet Agnes and who has shown me countless ways in which He is in complete control.

But on those "hard" days...the nights and all of their fears and lies rear their ugly heads and remind me that I have a disease...a chronic one.  And sometimes, that is scary.  I want to beat this like we beat flu, or a cold, or even a broken limb.  But, there are too many unknowns.  They can bring us to our knees, but what I sometimes forget is how they also rebuild us into better versions of ourselves.


So, while I would say I hate those bad days and the emotional, mental and physical toll they take on me, I am still grateful (especially when I'm able to look back) because while I sometimes wish for the Britt pre-October 21st, I like the Britt post October 21st better.

Why?  Because I've been forced to carry a cross that has allowed me the grace to become who I want to be.  I wanted to be the one detached of anything unnecessary, and now I'm learning humility.  I wanted to find more joy in life, and oh if you could see me ride my bike with the kids on a day I feel well!  I wanted to let go more, and I've been made to.  I've been made to see that there is no detail left unturned and that even if we don't fully understand every single part of our journey, God does, and He has great purpose in it.  I trust Him more now.  I feel Him closer than ever before.  I'm giving up on the idea that I can earn His love and finally seeing that it's always freely given.

And you know what else I've learned?  Through life's trials and hardships, we have choices.  We can simply get through it day by day, or we can let it change us.  We can focus on the bad days or we can look back on them and see how they've strengthened us.  We can fall under the weight of the cross and stay there, or we can pick it back up, learn how to love better and cling ever so closely to Him.

I want it to change me.

I want to remember the bad because someday I will be able to help someone else push through it.

But I want to live changed by the miracles I would never have seen had this cross not been placed on my shoulders.

Come, Lord Jesus.


The news came back that I do only have one more round of chemo before surgery...unless they find residual disease after.  I couldn't be more thrilled.  And...I can handle it - or better yet, He can!